The first whiff of anticipation comes in early April when you notice the odd crate in the supermarket, labelled “from Spain” and extortionately priced. You keep your eye on the incrementally falling price over the following fortnight. And when it hits seven euros a kilo and the label changes to “from Germany”, your mouth begins to water. Then the man with the muddy apron sets up his simple stall in the street, red crates overflowing with carefully aligned knobbly white sticks, sorted by thickness. Only at this point do the restaurants follow suit and proudly announce their new menus on pavement blackboards. This is when you know Spargelzeit, “Asparagus season”, has truly arrived.
There is possibly something a little ritualistic in the German attitude towards white asparagus. One of the few vegetables to which seasonal scarcity still applies and, to my knowledge, not so widely eaten outside of Germany (in Britain we always eat green), here it is considered a rare delicacy and an annual cause for occasion. Almost all restaurants (even the local Italian) bow to the traditions of this unusual vegetable, incorporating into their Spring menus with strict adherence the prescribed dishes: asparagus with potatoes and hollandaise sauce (or for simpler palates, melted butter); asparagus with potatoes, hollandaise and scrambled eggs; for carnivores, asparagus with potatoes, hollandaise and slices of cold ham, and finally a gorgeously creamy asparagus soup. READ MORE »